In the course of our work helping companies establish and sustain client Advisory Councils and Boards, we often get the question about timing for implementing a program. Many marketers we talk with are considering the role of a Client Advisory Board (CAB) in their customer engagement strategy, but are not sure where to most effectively engage with clients to get maximum value from a CAB.
There are a number of inflection points in a company’s life cycle that represent the right time to engage clients in a CAB. In some cases, this represents a proactive move to ensure success for a new initiative; or a defensive strategy to right a listing ship. In all cases, these are opportunities where your clients can make or break your success going forward. Bringing together your strategic clients to advise and co-create with you to tackle these opportunities will propel your success more quickly than if you try to go it alone.
- Your strategy is changing and you need customers to buy differently from you
It can be tempting to go it alone in developing a new strategy for your business; many executive leaders believe that they got the company to where it is because of their strategic acumen, and it is their job to steer the future. But it is precisely at this point where your strategic clients can be your greatest advisors and allies, and provide the kind of ongoing input and recommendations that embed customer needs into your next move before you get too far down the road.
- You are launching new products or services and you need traction
Loyal customers relish the opportunity to help shape new offerings. They benefit if you do it right, and they want you to succeed because it makes them successful too. Going beyond the typical user groups and client feedback sites to create a strategically focused CAB gives you the opportunity to test your go to market strategies, your messaging, and the elements and outcomes of your new offerings for better traction and results.
- You have lost a number of large or strategic client accounts and you need to regroup and chart a new course
Now is not the time to retreat and lick your wounds. Reach out to your remaining important clients, open the kimono and have them help you figure out what you need to fix, what this means for your strategy, and what priorities you should focus on to evolve and strengthen the company.
- You’ve acquired or merged with another company and you need to ensure you retain and grow your clients under the new regime
This is a very vulnerable time for your key clients and uncertainty fuels the fire of discontent. Bring together clients from both companies to advise you on the transition, and on where you need to focus the new entity to provide a new level of value for your existing clients and for new ones.
- You have a brand new executive team that wants to change the status quo
A new executive team can bring opportunity and also fear – both to employees and to clients. It is a good thing to want to make an impact and raise the game, but it will be easier and create better results if you bring a set of the company’s most strategic clients along for the ride. Convene your clients to find out where you should start first, and what will make the most difference. Often your clients have a different view of what really needs fixing than the executives mired in the intricacies and issues of running and leading a company on a day-to-day basis. And this view will get you to business value sooner.
We’d be interested in hearing other examples- where have you found a good opportunity to convene a CAB?
Illustration by RAGmedia